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Nautilus Social Conditions Survey: The impact of Covid-19

11 January 2022

Despite their efforts in keeping global trade moving through the most difficult period in recent history, maritime professionals were left brutally exposed by the international response to Covid-19.

Measures introduced to prevent the disease spreading failed to appreciate the crucial role that seafarers play in the global economy.

With borders closed and shore leave cancelled, the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) estimated that at one point up to 400,000 seafarers were trapped at sea beyond their contractual obligations, leading to accusations of enforced servitude.

Conditions onboard rapidly deteriorated for many. Medical care was scarce and only available for the most extreme cases, which added to the physical and mental strain. Reports of suicides and attempted suicides shot up.

Countless other seafarers were left out of work and often unable to access the kind of financial support from which other workers have benefited.

Seafarers played a critical role in keeping global supply chains open during the pandemic, but their efforts were too often unappreciated. While people gathered on their doorsteps to celebrate key workers, it was rare to hear the work of seafarers commended alongside that of doctors, nurses, delivery drivers and shopworkers.

Our Nautilus Social Conditions Survey results confirm that despite being hugely impacted by the pandemic, seafarers do not feel that their work was adequately recognised. This has led to many changing their view on how they feel about their careers.

Member feedback

Just 6% of respondents were not affected in some way by the 2020 pandemic, with a majority (53%) saying that they were 'highly' or 'very' impacted.

However, despite this impact and the sacrifices made by Nautilus members, just 6% thought that the work of seafarers as key workers was 'widely recognised' and a further 21% thought that it was 'somewhat recognised'. Almost three quarters of seafarers (73%) thought that their efforts were 'not at all recognised' (29%) or recognised only by those in the maritime industry (44%).

While some maritime commentators argued that a 'silver lining' to the pandemic was an increased recognition of the industry among the public, just one in 50 seafarers felt that there had been a significant increase in awareness. More than two-thirds felt that there had been no increase in recognition for the vital work of the maritime industry and the professionals working within it.

Despite many countries focusing on returning to normality, four out of five (81%) seafarers felt that the pandemic will have a long-term impact on the sector. This suggests that a greater emphasis is needed on long-term planning for the recovery of the industry than we have seen to date.

Worryingly, more than half of seafarers (54%) said that the crew change crisis has impacted how they feel about working in the maritime industry, a deeply concerning figure at a time when the retention of skilled and experienced professionals in the maritime workforce is more important than ever.

Covid-19 has been used as an excuse to decrease pay and increase trip lengths. Nautilus International Social Conditions Survey 2021

How impacted were you by the 2020 pandemic?

Highly impacted

28%

Very impacted

25%

Somewhat impacted

29%

Slightly impacted

12%

Not at all impacted

6%

Do you believe the work of seafarers as key workers was recognised during Covid-19?

Yes, it was widely recognised

6%

Somewhat recognised

21%

Recognised only by those in the maritime industry

44%

Not at all recognised

29%

Do you believe the coronavirus increased the public's awareness of maritime professionals and the maritime industry?

Significant increase

2%

Slight increase

30%

No increase

68%

Do you believe Covid-19 will have a long-term impact on the maritime sector?

Yes

81%

No

19%

Has the crew change crisis impacted on how you feel about working in the maritime industry?

Yes

54%

No

46%


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